Dissertation Title: "Topics in Labor Markets, Health, and Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance"
Three questions are examined. The first concerns the effect of minimum wage hikes on employer-sponsored health insurance. Low-skilled workers have limited access to health benefits, and a binding minimum wage can make it impossible for firms to offer coverage. I use changes in the level and bindingness of minimum wage laws during 1987-1999 to identify effects on the proportion of full-time adult workers with health insurance. An increase in the minimum wage of $1.80—the amount of the federal increase during this period—is expected to reduce coverage by about two percentage points, or nearly half the amount by which coverage fell during this time for full-time workers. Lower-wage environments see larger reductions for a given increase.
Also examined is the effect of poor health on work following involuntary job loss. Older workers who lose their jobs are known to experience long absences from full-time work. Since poor health also reduces work, employment after job loss among the sick is of particular interest. Examining panel data from the Health & Retirement Study (HRS), I find that older persons with major health problems return to work at a substantially lower rate than do their healthier counterparts.
While poor health is known to reduce labor force participation, little is known about the exact reasons. To explore the possibility that health events may reduce work by impacting mental health, this analysis uses data from the HRS to examine the relationship between onset of illness and reported mental health status among older persons. Reported health events such as cardiovascular disease or stroke have large apparent negative effects on reported mental health measures, though endogeneity concerns should be noted.